“I am well aware of the fact that the human race has known about the existence of a universal energy related to life for many ages. However, the basic task of natural science consisted of making this energy usable. This is the sole difference between my work and all preceding knowledge.”
– Wilhelm Reich, Archives of the Orgone Institute
In the 1930s, Wilhelm Reich, M.D.–an Austrian psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and scientist–discovered a powerful, new biological energy, and for the next two decades devoted his life to the investigation of its laws and properties. Reich confirmed the existence of this energy in the human body, verified its presence in the atmosphere, developed instrumentation to observe and collect it, and harnessed it for a variety of purposes from cancer treatment to motor power to weather experimentation.
Reich called his discovery “orgone energy.” But, sadly, it was a discovery that the world was not ready for.
REICH, FREUD, AND THE LIBIDO
(1918 — 1934)
“It is sexual energy which governs the structure of human feeling and thinking.”
– from The Sexual Revolution
Reich’s orgasm theory set him apart from his colleagues, because it indicated that the libido was a real physical energy that possibly might be measured quantitatively. Reich’s clinical work also led him to develop new therapeutic techniques to eliminate the patient’s character and muscular armor and allow for the flow and discharge of this bio-energy to achieve what he called “orgastic potency,” the capacity for total discharge of sexual excitation in the genital embrace.
But the widespread existence of sexual misery forced Reich to conclude that the solution to the problem of neuroses wasn’t treatment, it was prevention. “You have to revamp your whole way of thinking,” Reich said, “so that you don’t think from the standpoint of the state and the culture, but from the standpoint of what people need and what they suffer from. Then you arrange your social institutions accordingly.” (Reich Speaks of Freud )
Freud, on the other hand, maintained that culture takes precedence, that sexual instincts must be adapted to the existing social structure. These conflicting positions would lead to an eventual break between Reich and Freud.
Reich also devoted much of his time and money educating working class people about the essential role of sexuality in their lives. “I had six clinics in Vienna where people came and received advice once or twice a week…To provide medical and educational help was its purpose.” (Reich Speaks of Freud) To reach the greatest number of people, he worked within the Socialist and Communist parties in Vienna, and later in Berlin, to promote sex education, birth control, divorce rights, and better housing. Reich recalled that in Berlin there were about fifty thousand people in his organization in the first year.
Reich was also very outspoken about Germany’s turbulent political climate. Unlike most members of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Association, Reich openly opposed the rise of the Nazi Party. But Reich’s activities exacted a high price. In 1933 he was denounced by the Communist Party, forced to flee from Germany when Hitler came to power, and expelled from the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1934. Reich called these events “catastrophes which threatened my personal, professional and social existence.”
…..Reich’s research also revealed that certain bions exhibited a strong radiation phenomena, and that these bions could kill bacteria and cancer cells. This radiation confirmed the existence of an energy that did not obey any known laws of electricity or magnetism. Reich called this energy “orgone,” because its discovery had evolved from his investigation of the orgasm function, and because this energy could charge organic materials. When Reich published his findings, the scientific and psychiatric communities responded with a vicious year-long attack in the Norwegian press.
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